The search for Morning Glory, two teensy mechanical issues and all of the flies ever – Normanton, Karumba and Lawn Hill National Park

We survived our first night without power, and therefore without air-conditioning, quite comfortably. It did demonstrate to us, however, that our fridge can only last 5 hours without being plugged in, which is problematic for those people wishing not to eat rotten food and we made a mental note to call Apollo to arrange installment a new battery. Having bid good morning to the toilet frogs we proceeded on our route through Normanton and stopped at Karumba Point for lunch overlooking the water and to scope out a camping site. As we pulled away from our lunch spot there was an ominous dull crashing noise…

Caro: Did you leave anything out in the back?

James: No

Caro: Ok then

*we pull in to the campsite 5 minutes later and James opens the cabin door*

James: Bollocks!

Caro: *sighs*

James: I left all of the bloody crockery on the side and now its all over the bloody floor

Caro: Is anything broken?

James: Errrrm… pretty much everything

Caro: I had a feeling that might be the case

James:  @£@£$%$£@@$%&**^^$^&*^£@@£$%!!!!!!!

Caro failed to take a picture of the wreckage but the upshot is that all of our stuff is now chipped / broken and Caro has to double check the everything is locked away before we travel… campervaning is fun!

As far as we can tell; every town, village, hamlet and shack on the side of a body of water in the Northern Territory is famous for its barramundi. Karumba Point is no exception but for those who aren’t keen anglers, like us, it has the added draw of its glorious sunsets.  We settled to watch one with some cold schooners at the imaginatively named Sunset Tavern. It was pretty stunning.DSC_0114The Northern Territory resembles Norfolk in very few ways but they do have a lack of reliable phone signal in common. Caro was therefore staring eagle-eyed at the phone the following morning until we found the tiniest bar of signal and pulled over to call Apollo and report the fridge issue. This was apparently dealt with swiftly, although we later learned that it was not resolved at all, and James went to start the car again. At this point Heidi decided that she had had enough and died entirely…. Fortunately, we had phone signal to report the problem: “it’s me again, funny thing happened!” We only had to wait 90 minutes during which time Caro developed a deep appreciation for her battery powered fan and spider solitaire.IMG_0245Due to our shorter-than-planned driving time and in preference to driving in the dark, we decided that the quiet town of Burketown would be our final stop for the day. On our way there, we stopped briefly at that Burke & Willis Camp 119. This is definitely worth going to even if it is just for ten minutes. The walk from the parking area is short and it is the place where we truly appreciated the scale of the task that those 19th century explorers had set themselves and the unyielding and unforgiving nature of the land that they had to cross. IMG_0246There isn’t a huge amount to Burketown itself, although it does have a rather lovely thermal spring; this runs continuously with roasting hot water and has created a wetland area which is a haven for birds and kangaroos. Sadly, we weren’t able to capture the sheer number of animals with a picture but it was lovely to see.DSC_0138Burketown is famous for its barramundi, obviously, but also for the Morning Glory (it’s an extremely rare cloud formation you cretins) and we dutifully awoke early to be disappointed by clear blue skies. We picked up some pies for lunch from the wide selection available at the excellent Roadkill Butchers in town: Barramundi (obviously), Thai Green Curry Croc and Emu & Kangaroo.

IMG_0335

We also purchased the essential souvenir stubby holder for James.

Our final destination for the day was Lawn Hill (Boodamulla) National Park, at the end of a long and bumpy 4×4 track. We stopped en route to enjoy our pies and were mildly irritated by some persistent flies. We didn’t think much of it at the time… oh what fools we were.

As we set up at Lawn Hill we noticed that the heat had stepped up a notch, as had the flies. Please do not get us wrong, we are not completely soft and can handle a bit of hardship, but this was no ordinary irritation. The lady camping across from us came up to us and said: “the thing is; they don’t want food, they don’t want water, all that they really want to do is land in your eyes”, hundreds of the buggers! Caro resorted to wrapping her head in her sarong and James employed the “aussie wave” more or less permanently, looking like a slightly demented air traffic controller.IMG_0347That being said, the gorge is stunning and the river is safe to swim in, which we gratefully did to escape the mid-afternoon heat… and the flies. There were also Archer Fish which employ a really cool hunting technique of squirting water to knock insects out of the air and in to the water. As the evening drew in we decided to give the flies some exercise and take a walk to explore the southern end of the gorge. The walk took us past some Aboriginal rock art, and gave extensive views of the park. Back at camp we hid from the flies in our very warm campervan until they retired for the night and we could finally cook and have our first glass of aussie red.

We had originally planned to do one of the longer walks the following day, taking in the northern sections of the gorges and the surrounding National Park, but decided to determine the fly situation in the morning first. They were up before us. During his morning coffee James threw a hissy fit about the flies and we stomped off on a shorter walk without breakfast. The walk was beautiful but unfortunately mired by our winged companions.

Being the hardened campers that we are, we decided to call it a day and left Lawn Hill a day early because we just couldn’t take anymore flies.

AFTERWORD: Despite the “middle class problem” moans above, Lawn Hill NP is gorgeous and well worth the detour from the Savannah Way if you have the presence of mind to buy a fly net beforehand.IMG_0351

 

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